Three things we learned in the Red Sox' 4-3 victory over the Yankees Friday night:
1.) The Red Sox can still be fun to watch, despite not playing for a postseason berth.
The Red Sox were called "sellers" all the way up to the trade deadline. Still, after hauling in Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig along with Joe Kelly, the term "sellers" just doesn't sound right.
The truth is, Opening Day aside, Friday night was probably the most exciting game of the season based on the past 24 hours involving the Red Sox - and that's before Cespedes even takes the field.
He'll do so on Saturday as Allen Webster takes the hill against Shane Greene (not shaping up to be your classic Sox-Yanks pitcher's duel).
And you know what? People will watch. It has nothing to do with losing Jon Lester or John Lackey, but more to do with injecting some offense - some life - into this pretty offensively-challenged Sox team this year.
Suddenly a lineup featuring Brock Holt, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Yoenis Cespedes, and Allen Craig doesn't sound all that bad. Throw in Xander Bogaerts, who might just be coming around, Will Middlebrooks, who is looking to prove something - anything - right now, and Christian Vazquez and shoot, if the Sox weren't so many games out of the playoff race, you'd probably have some believers.
"A different mood because we've got maybe a third of a new team," John Farrell said after the game. "So there's certainly some newness, but I think there was a lot of enthusiasm with the guys that we've brought in, and we're looking forward to seeing Yoenis in the outfield tomorrow."
One thing is for sure: the team isn't "rebuilding." Regardless of what happens this year, they're a pitcher or two away from being World Series contenders next year.
Plus Stephen Drew. Gotta find a way to get him back.
2. Rotation tryouts being held this week - and for the rest of the season.
A little in-house competition can do wonders for a team, and that's exactly what the Sox have with their new rotation.
Get a load of these names: Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Joe Kelly.
These are the names, along with Clay Buchholz, you'll see in the lineup card next to "P" for starting pitcher. Bet you didn't expect to see that rotation a few months ago. But when life hands you lemons, trade the staff. That's what the Sox did, and now the door is wide open for these young pitchers to get a jump on earning a spot in next year's starting rotation.
Ranaudo got things started off the right way Friday night tossing six innings of two-run ball. It was a strong debut and should put the heat on his former/current PawSox teammates and friends (he's close with Brandon Workman in particular) to match or exceed his stats.
Webster knows his problem is control - can he harness it? De La Rosa has to prove he can pitch outside of Fenway. Workman took a bit of a step back in his last start. Kelly? He's got more major league experience than the others, but zero in the American League.
It's healthy competition for young players hungry to bolt Pawtucket for good.
3. Junichi Tazawa hasn't been great lately.
The bullpen has been a strength of the Red Sox. That certainly remains to be the case in save situations with Koji Uehara.
But his set-up man, Junichi Tazawa, hasn't been as effective lately.
Tazawa had a 2.08 ERA on July 1. After Friday, it's up to 3.35. That number comes on the heels of another game in which Tazawa ran into trouble - and if not for Mookie Betts, deep trouble.
With a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning, Tazawa allowed a leadoff home run to Derek Jeter on his very first pitch. That was followed by a blast to center field by Jacoby Ellsbury that Betts miraculously caught over his shoulder.
In the next at-bat, Mark Teixeira hit a blooping ground-rule double that found the stands in left field. Tazawa then got Carlos Beltran to ground to second, advancing Teixeira to third base. He then walked Brian McCann on a full count before getting Chase Headley to end the threat with another ground out to Pedroia.
All three hard-hit balls came courtesy of his fastball. But man, does Tazawa make it interesting or what?
His ERA for July was 7.56, with a WHIP of just under 2.00.
It's something to keep an eye on as we enter August.